Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner -- James Dashner
October 2009 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
374 pages Goodreads

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

With how popular as this book has been, I figured I needed to read it eventually, and when it showed up on the bargain books shelf at the bookstore for just a couple dollars I couldn't resist. Now I'm glad I only paid a few bucks for this because it was a bit lackluster.  Not bad, just not terribly good either.  I'm reading Lord of the Flies next and am interested to see how well the two compare.  And by reading it next I mean probably some time after mid terms.  In a month and a half.  Or over Christmas break. I'll read it...soon.

Dashner throws us into his world very abruptly and we spend most of the novel trying to figure out what's going on.  This bugged me a bit, though it was the effect Dashner was going for.  I generally prefer a bit more explanation of the setting and good world building, even if there are a lot of unknowns.  The rest of the series, from the Wikipedia summaries, seem to be a similar collection of scattered events that is supposed to be suspenseful   

The excessive and escalating violence left a bad taste in my mouth.  I'm not opposed to any violence ever, but the characters seemed to relish in it.  At one point, a boy is banished from the safety of the Glade, tied up, and left to be eaten by Griever monster things.  It's a disturbing scene, but some of the characters smile through it.  I really don't like such callousness.  These are just kids; they should be a bit more disturbed by their actions.  I also made the mistake of finishing the book late at night and promply spent the next half hour trying to fall asleep while listening to the night noises of my house, trying to convince myself I was not about to get attacked.  Thanks Dashner.

The characters use slang A LOT, to the point that it felt crude.  "Klunk", "shuckface", "we're shucked", "shucking"--we know you're swearing.  I don't think this would bother most readers, but it bugged me.  Along with this, everyone is always yelling.  Always.  Spitting out death threats or lashing out at people (rationally or irrationally) or whatever.  No one knows how to speak in a normally toned voice.  Maybe I'm not giving the characters enough credit--it's a high stress situation--but anger overused loses its effect.

Also, there is extremely little character development. This is where a novel can really shine and yet where so many novels fall flat, taking the easy route of flat stereotypes.

My number one complaint is that the mystery of the novel is solved only through a dues ex machina bestowal of information.  That's cheating.  Yes, new information is usually needed to solve a mystery, but the characters didn't figure out anything on their own.  Again, I don't know that this would bother a young adult audience, but I prefer the satisfaction of a well-developed, intricate plot that I can sort out along with the characters. I do like the plot twist at the very end of the book.  Dashner has the potential to explore moral/ethical issues about government and science and experimentation a la The Island, but I can't help but think he won't live up to that potential.

I liked the book well enough when I was reading it, but after putting it down I had little desire to pick it up again.  It was a decent book, but I don't feel terribly compelled to read the sequels.  That's what Wikipedia is for.  


  1. Eh, I think I'll pass on this one, then. I'm sure there are much better sci-fic/dystopian books with tons of action in it... Thank you for the honest review, Tessa!

  2. Thanks, Leanne. There are so many rave reviews of this one on Goodreads that I expected to like it more, but it was just kind of lack luster. And there are so many good dystopias out there.



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